Children are supposed to catch colds, and lots of them. That’s how they build a healthy immune system. Yes colds are inconvenient, and yes they keep the family up at night, and yes a parent even has to stay home from work to adequately care for the child (and keep them from spreading it to others). Catching colds is necessary because it makes a child’s immune system stronger so it can fight severe infections and serious diseases like cancer, and prevent allergic disorders like asthma and eczema. So why would a University Professor think it’s a good idea to develop a vaccine for children against the common cold? And is there such a thing as being over-vaccinated?
Dr. Moore at Emory University in Atlanta believes this vaccine is such a great idea that he’s decided to leave academia and head up a private company to develop and market a cold vaccine. His talking points to the public are simple: Colds are inconvenient; Colds can kill immunocompromised people; Colds make parents have to miss work. All good reasons as to why we should never let children catch colds anymore, right?
But if catching colds and other routine childhood diseases allows the immune system to develop fully and therefore work more efficiently in adulthood when presented with more dangerous risks, could we be hurting ourselves by trying to prevent them altogether? Haven’t we seen the same problems recently with overuse of antibiotics? When it comes down to it, are we really too busy as parents to be “inconvenienced” by our children getting sick with a cold? Do we really want our kids to grow up germ-free and sterile with immune systems that don’t know how to fight off diseases? Is it worth subjecting our children to increased risk for allergic disorders and cancer for the added convenience of potentially skipping a cold? With more than 160 different strains of the common cold, the vaccine is unlikely to offer a guarantee anyway.
Even more concerning is that if this vaccine gets approved, people will start to fear the common cold because now it can be prevented, a pattern we’ve seen with the measles and chicken pox. The vaccine will become mandatory for health care workers first, then it will become mandatory for all children in daycare and school. And our whole society will in fact lose its natural herd immunity to what is now a harmless infection. However, Dr. Moore is right about one thing: if we prevent children from catching colds, building natural immunity, and growing up with a strong immune system, the common cold WILL end up becoming a deadly disease.